Introducing you to the organisers and their motivation and vision for the conference. 
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Learning Reimagined Family Conference 11/12 February 2017

Whilst writing this piece for our newsletter we realise that the Learning Reimagined Conference is only nine months away. We are so excited to have some amazing local and international presenters, facilitators and participants coming together. We thought now might be a good time to introduce you to the two organisers, Claire and Zakiyya, and share with you our motivation and vision for the conference.

Hi. I'm Claire Madgwick

I am a mother of two unschooled children ... ages 17 and 12 years. My son attended school in the UK for two years, from ages 5 to 7, and my daughter has never been to school. Our journey to unschooling took us along an entirely different path to that of Zakiyya’s family. Initially our approach was schooled, over the years we transitioned through the deschooling process and ended up where we are now as unschoolers. However, this deschooling process is likely to never entirely go away as my childhood was defined by my experience within the school system. In those first few months of homeschooling our learning took on a ‘school at home’ approach. This rapidly progressed into a form of eclectic homeschooling that we followed for a few years. During this phase in our journey I spent hours researching all types of ‘fun’ curriculums even going as far as to set up an online shop selling educational products. Yet on those occasions when I stopped, and really observed, I would see evidence of natural learning occurring around us all the time. I slowly began to let go and to trust. Then one day it dawned on me that we were unschooling and we haven’t looked back. Just when I feel I’ve got the hang of unschooling I learn something new and realise there is always more for me to learn.

In 2013 my daughter, then aged 9, and I decided to capture as much of her unschool learning as was possible. Each day, for the duration of that year, we jointly blogged about it on 365DaysLearning and tweeted it on @365DaysLearning. I am currently writing up that experience for a book, hoping to have it ready in time for the Learning Reimagined Conference.

Six years ago we attended HESFES (Home education Seaside Festival), the once largest European home education gathering held in the UK. Since then it has been a dream of mine to be a part of something along these lines here in South Africa. What I enjoyed most about HESFES was the connections made and the interactions experienced between us like minded families. My daughter and I spent the days immersed in the many fun activities on offer, learning new skills and meeting new friends. Every now and then I would pop into the conference tent and hear what was being presented, wishing I could spend more time listening and contributing, but with an easily bored six year old I had to make do with gathering snippets and chatting alongside other parents whilst learning a new skill. For the entire festival we rarely crossed paths with my son. He vanished every day, playing rounders, football and other games with his new friends.

A few years back Zakiyya and I began to explore the possibility of combining our two experiences, to develop a unique African gathering of like minded families, and individuals, gathering together over a few days to connect, share and learn ... and so the embryonic stages of the Learning Reimagined conference took hold.

Hi.  I'm Zakiyya Ismail

I am mother of 3 kids aged 18, 16 and 9. Unlike Claire, we've always been unschoolers, and arrived at unschooling before we knew there was a term for the education and living paradigm that made the most sense to Ahmed and I. Of course theoretically choosing to unschool and practically embracing it are two very different things. As Claire states, I think I will always be in a state of deschooling. I am passionate about creating a better world for children to live in and am very keen on the idea and prospect of building a learning society. I created the Unschoolers in South Africa Facebook group to get support, to find other unschoolers, and to help other unschoolers in South Africa connect with and support each other. It grew into something much more useful to me than I initially envisioned. As much as I read books and blogs and watched videos, there was and still is a richness in having a space to go to – even if online – to share a thought or be forced to reflect on my own journey through other members questions and answers. I can certainly attribute a large portion of my growth to the members on the group.

For the last 5 years I've been organising Unschooler's Camp in Merry Pebbles in Sabie every November, and we will be gathering there this November again.  It is such a special weekend for all of us and is the highlight of the year for many of us, and especially for the kids. The weekend is made special by all the people that attend it and I always feel really grateful for the opportunity to connect and be a part of something so beautiful. 

In the last couple of months I've got the (years in the making) Growing Minds website up and running. I hope to make it a useful space for people exploring other ways of growing/living/learning. (Contributors are welcome)

An organisation that is close to my heart and that I have started working with in a very limited way and hope to contribute to much more in the future is the Alliance for Parenting Education in Africa. Its mission is to transform humanity through childhood.

I've always wanted to attend an unschooling or alternative learning conference. My early days of unschooling were filled with self doubt, lots of unanswered questions and loneliness. I always wished I could be immersed into a bubble (however temporary) with similarly minded people where I could talk about my fears and ask questions and know they would be addressed. It would have saved me a much heartache and many mistakes.   Eventually, last October, I got that opportunity when I attended the Life Without Instructions conference in New Jersey. It was a little late for my initial reasons for wanting to attend one, but I am so glad I did. It was an inspiring experience. I loved the welcoming and affirming atmosphere, the many rich and spontaneous discussions in between the formal program, that the speakers were available and accessible outside of their presentations and that they sat in on the other sessions as seekers of knowledge themselves. This is something one cannot replicate in online interactions, from watching a youtube video or reading a person's book or blog. That connection for me was what made it special and I knew then that this is where the magic in such gatherings lie and why there was no reason we could not make some of our own magic here in South Africa.

The revolution will not take place in a classroom.. ~ Carol Black

Our Vision for the Conference

We wanted to create our own magic and put together a program where we answer the burning questions: what is learning, how do we learn, what are the options for learning without schooling, what are the alternative learning spaces, what are the long term implications for higher education and career options, how do we build a learning community, what will it look like, how do we let go the fears and design our own learning paths with confidence and commitment. And of course we hope to find new questions to ask.

So we set out to work out a way to provide an immersive space for a meaningful dialogue about real learning and its implications for how we educate our families and how we collaborate as a learning community.

After much brainstorming, dreaming and budgeting, we eventually came up with a choice of speakers, topics and a format that:

  • Allows us to benefit from the combined wisdom of our international and local guests so that we all learn from each other and grow together;
  • Is an inclusive space that extends to families and individuals at all stages in their learning process along this natural learning paradigm;
  • Is inclusive to all ages, and hence we will ensure a meaningful experience for kids, tweens and teens (can't wait to share the plans on this)
  • Create a platform for collaborations, for us to discuss the issues that we face within our educational paradigm and to explore possibilities of building learning communities and creating real learning opportunities for our children and ourselves;
  • Provides a fun environment not only on the cerebral level, but also one that embraces an immersive experience through funshops and negative space experiences and connections.


Registration for the conference is now open

We really hope you'd like to be part of this historic and inaugural event. If you're as excited as we are about the conference, we are happy to inform you that registration is finally now open on the website.

As always, we are happy to answer any questions you may have and invite you to join the discussion on the Learning Reimagined Facebook Group.



Zakiyya and Claire


Take me to the registration page!!
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